SOUTH BEND — Former county Department of Community Development director Faith Taylor-Eldred will return to work for the county in a new, lower-profile role.
In mid-December, the Board of County Commissioners approved her hire as an engineering technician in the Department of Public Works, under the supervision of DPW Director Mike Collins.
According to county meeting minutes, Taylor-Eldred’s start date was Dec. 27. However, Taylor-Eldred could not be reached — a staff member at DPW said she hasn’t officially started work yet.
Taylor-Eldred, who has a bachelor’s degree in geology, and a master’s degree in environmental studies and public administration, first began working for DCD as an environmental health specialist in about 2002. She was later promoted to assistant director, and became director in 2011. She resigned in summer 2016 saying that she was ready for a change.
In a Dec. 23 phone interview, County Commissioner Frank Wolfe said Taylor-Eldred is “absolutely” qualified for the job.
“People underestimate Faith a lot. She is double-degree person. She was eminently qualified for her job in DCD,” Wolfe said.
As leader of DCD, the department that deals with code enforcement, permitting, restaurant inspections, nuisance properties, failing septic systems and other public health problems, Taylor-Eldred occupied a demanding, and highly public role that only became more challenging over time. During her tenure, the DCD faced persistent budget woes that led to reductions in staff and hours. Taylor-Eldred also dealt with extremely complex local issues, such as the rapid erosion that threatens roads and farms near Tokeland, and oversaw revisions of the Shoreline Master Program and Critical Areas Ordinance.
Although she received high praise from commissioners, and industry recognition — she was named Washington’s Environmental Health Director of the Year in 2014 — some of her decisions were controversial, and drew scrutiny from the Chinook Observer and (Longview) Daily News, and criticism from a small, but vocal group of citizens. In particular, her decisions concerning oyster farmer Dan Driscoll’s small Oysterville seafood market led some members of the public to express concerns about the DCD’s ability to apply county policies fairly and consistently.
Wolfe said Taylor-Eldred applied for the full-time job, along with several other candidates. Collins made the hiring decision, and commissioners approved it. Under the terms of the 2013-2016 union collective bargaining agreement posted on the county website, Taylor-Eldred will earn a salary of about $2,968 per month. Her employment contract was not available at the time of publication.
According to Wolfe, commissioners unanimously approved her hire, and no one from the public expressed any objections.
“If you’re trying to back up in any way the idea that Faith was a poor manager of DCD, you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Wolfe said. He added that he felt much of the criticism of Taylor-Eldred was misplaced, and driven by people who had personal agendas.
“I think the county lost an extremely valuable employee. She’s a competent person. She was hounded out of her job, and has decided to come back in a lower-profile job,” Wolfe said. “Too often, county employee are targets of abuse, and they don’t deserve it.”